It’s a funny thing, growing up. When you’re young, you feel like you have the whole world figured out when, in reality, you’re just beginning to think about it differently. When you’re an adult, you feel as if the world is crumbling around you and you realize just how little you thought you knew. The problems I thought I had when I was young are minuscule to the ones I actually have now. And yet, I now find myself counting the problems I do have as blessings. Instead of problems that happened to me, they are blessings that happened for me. What happened to me?
When I was young, I was a complainer. If something didn’t go the way I intended it to, I blamed everyone else instead of taking responsibility for my affect on the outcome. I thought, if other people were succeeding where I was failing, there must be something they’re being given to put them ahead. Truthfully, the outcome was likely affected by a lack of effort put forth by me and had nothing to do with other people at all. This misguided perception created a projection of selfishness. I didn’t know just how lucky I was to have the things I did.
In a way, we all think this way. It’s very easy to constantly compare your story to other people. We live in a world where that’s all we do. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were built on the premise of sharing your story with others. What it became, though, was a way to project a constant fabrication of success on other people, causing them to feel inadequate about themselves. No one on social media is as successful as they project. If stories of failure were shared more than those of success, there wouldn’t be those out there who mentally quit before they ever physically begin something. They would seek failure, so success would become a possibility.
Due to this selfish projection of constant success from other people, it can cause us to isolate ourselves from people we love and people who routinely encourage our growth. We stop talking. We start thinking of our failures as things that are happening to us and no one else. We resent other people for it. This can lead to anxiety, loneliness, and depression. This is what happened to me. The truth is, it’s not as glamorous to share constant failure. It’s not, but it should be. Your journey isn’t the same as anyone else’s so your outcome won’t be the same as someone else’s.
Consider the gentleman or lady down the street who lost 50 pounds, or the one at the gym who recently put on a ton of muscle. You may say to yourself, “I’ve been trying to lose weight for months. She’s probably not eating. That can’t be healthy” or “I put in way more work at the gym than that guy. He must be taking steroids.” What you don’t know is that the lady down the street has a recently diagnosed heart condition. She got healthier so she would be there for her children. The guy at the gym? He was bullied and ridiculed his whole life for being overweight, so after the death of a close friend to a heart attack, he took it upon himself to change his own life. We see the tip of the iceberg where growth occurs, but have no idea what happened at the base and all of the failure that it embodies.
When the NICU process began, I selfishly began comparing my story to other people’s right away, not fully understanding that I was doing it. When you look around and see other children thriving while yours is struggling, it seems justifiably unfair. You think, “Why did this happen to me? Why did I have to be the one?” In all actuality, spiritual, mental, and physical growth never occur in the presence of comfort. They occur in the presence of adversity and fragility.
The moment I stopped comparing myself to other people was the moment I began feeling more like myself. I stopped comparing what other people thought about me to what I thought of myself. I stopped wondering what other people were thinking. I stopped thinking everyone had it easy except for me. All this did was create a resentment of self and a resentment of other people. Once I stopped comparing, I became empathetic. I became present in the here and now. I was truly able to focus on how the present moment presented an opportunity for self-growth and how I could use that growth to help other people.
Sitting in the NICU, I had ample time to ponder the type of man I wanted to be for my son. I reached an impasse where I concluded I could either continue on the path of the man I used to be or diverge into the path of the man I wanted to become. To do that, though, I needed to let go of all of the excess worry and resentment I had, so my soul could reach a point of growth. This growth was failure-driven.
It didn’t happen overnight. There was a lot of mental clarification and spiritual reassurance that occurred between points A and B. But I’m better for it. Without those instances where I was truly tested, I wouldn’t have grown to where I am now. I’d still be complaining about the things that don’t truly matter, instead of focusing on what I’ve been given, what I can do, and how I can make an impact.